Leiko Ikemura was born at Tsu, Mie Prefecture, one hundred kilometres east of Osaka, Japan, in 1951. At twenty-one she left Japan for Salamanca, Spain, to continue the studies in Spanish she had begun in Osaka. Leiko Ikemura studied sculpture and painting in Granada and Seville but moved to Zurich in 1979. In 1980 Leiko Ikemura produced the first of her paintings she regarded as valid statements of her intentions; they are lively, at once invigorating and disturbing, occasionally reminiscent of fairy-tales. In them Leiko Ikemura tells of dreams, struggles and conflicts.
In 1983 Leiko Ikemura's work was shown at the Bonn Kunstverein at her first public solo exhibition, comprising twenty-nine paintings and thirty drawings. Some of the drawings were preliminary studies for paintings but others are autonomous works in their own right. In 1985 Leiko Ikemura moved to Cologne. She found the step to sculpture, which she had taken in 1987, enormously productive since it provided scope for experimentation with composition and form, which in turn made an impact on her painting.
Leiko Ikemura's metaphorical figures also represent the loss of cultural identity, an aggregate state as well as the blurring of boundaries and dissolution of polarities. Leiko Ikemura sees herself as crossing boundaries, an intermediary between Japanese and Western cultures.
Early in the 1990s the female figure emerged as Leiko Ikemura's main theme for the years to come. Executed in glazes of dilute paint, these figures are devoid of individualising traits.
Leiko Ikemura lives and works in Cologne and Berlin, where she was appointed professor of painting at the Art Academy in 1991. Internationally acclaimed, Leiko Ikemura was honoured with a solo presentation under the auspices of the special "Sculpture" show at the 2002 Cologne Art Fair.